Updated1/3/2024 2:53:00 AM
For nearly 20 years, Novak Djokovic has made history. The 36-year-old has won a record 24 major titles, spent more than 400 weeks at No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and clinched a leading 40 ATP Masters 1000 titles.
His success has inspired millions from all corners of the world and is evident in his home nation of Serbia, where he has been a leading light. Just ask Hamad Medjedovic. The 20-year-old Serbian grew up watching Djokovic before he started to train with him at the Novak Tennis Centre aged 16. Djokovic quickly took interest in his countryman. He invested into Medjedovic's training, transport and support costs with this paying off in December when the 20-year-old triumphed at the Next Gen ATP Finals in December, earning $514,000 as an undefeated champion.
“It's fantastic to see his recent achievements,” Djokovic told ATPTour.com at the United Cup. “He's been playing really well in the last year or two years, maturing a lot, I think as a player, but as a person as well. The work that he's putting in is paying off. Everyone who was around him in the past five plus years, we all knew that the talent is there, the potential is there.”
“He's still very young, so he still has plenty of time ahead of him. But the recent success in Jeddah made me very happy. I'm very happy. He's been someone that I tried to be close to mentor, help in any possible way support, and I'm really glad that he's also working and being coached by Viktor Troicki, who is my childhood friend, former No. 12. Someone that has tremendous experience in life and tennis.
“I think that the collaboration between the two of them is working really nicely. And I'm a great support to him and to Victor and hopefully we'll see his rise to the top of the world, going in the right direction and coming really quickly.”
Medjedovic has developed a strong relationship with Djokovic in recent years, training with him at the Novak Centre in Belgrade. The 20-year-old was working with former Davis Cup captain Bogdan Obradovic, who introduced an excited Medjedovic to Djokovic in 2013.
“It was actually 10 years ago, when it was my 10th birthday,” Medjedovic said on his first meeting with Djokovic. “I remember my ex-coach [Bogdan Obradovic] taking me to meet him. It was the first time I saw him in person. And it's one of the greatest memories for me as a child. It was such a big thing for me.”
Djokovic won the Davis Cup title with Serbia in 2010 and was led at the event by captain Obradovic. The 98-time tour-level titlist remembers the early hype that surrounded Medjedovic from Obradovic and former World No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic.
“I saw him because his ex-coach was the ex-Serbian captain [Bogdan Obradovic], who was at that point, the captain and had been also part of my coaching team back in the day. So I remember him talking about Hamid a lot,” Djokovic said. “I'd seen clips of him playing. And also [Janko] Tipsarevic was telling me about how good he is.”
Serbia has enjoyed a golden period of success in the 21st century across both the men’s and women’s games. While Djokovic has led the charge with his standout achievements, former WTA stars Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic both reached No. 1 in the WTA Rankings, with Ivanovic winning the 2008 Australian Open. Nenad Zimonjic also climbed to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Rankings in 2008 and lifted three major trophies in doubles.
Djokovic is proud of what he and his compatriots have achieved and believes they have played a crucial role in developing the sport in Serbia.
“That was a golden generation of the men's tennis in Serbia without a doubt and also, during that time when we won the Davis Cup and played the final in several semi-finals and individually had fantastic careers and successes. We also had Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic on the women's side. So at one point, I don't know, maybe not too many nations managed to do what we had in the history of tennis we had for Serbia which is a very small nation we managed to have in the period of I think, two or three years for No. 1s, in singles, doubles [Nenad Zimonjic]. Two in a women's single which is amazing.
"That era I think helped Hamid as well and the new generation to get inspired to believe that it is possible to succeed from a small country like Serbia that didn't have a great system of tennis, development or tradition or history. But we all had individual parts that kind of came together at the right time. I feel it's the responsibility of all of us now from this generation, golden generation, to try to impact in a positive way new generations and help them out and be there for them. Support them in any way possible, because everything is possible."
Medjedovic and WTA star Olga Danilovic are glowing examples of the next generation of Serbian tennis. Medjedovic, currently No. 110 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, won three ATP Challenger Tour titles in 2023, while Danilovic won her maiden singles title in 2018 in Moscow when she was just 17.
This week, Medjedovic is lining up alongside Djokovic at the United Cup in Perth, where he will have another chance to learn from the World No. 1.
“I've said it many times, it is really a great pleasure,” Medjedovic said. “Having him next to me, not only here, but in general in my tennis career, helping me. It's such a big thing for me, it had the probably the biggest impact on my career, and watching him playing when I was growing up, it's for sure a big thing. And he is helping not only me, but every tennis player in Serbia.
“The younger generation, having a role model and we had so many great players like Victor. It's a great thing to know that we had so many good, great champions from our country and just to know that you can make it. It gives you a lot of confidence and boost for your own career.”